Humbug and Hypocrisy

Thursday, November 13, 2008
The holiday season is approaching, and we all know what that means - happiness, good cheer, good will towards men, and hypocrisy.

It seems that the American Humanist Association has decided to run this ad on buses in Washington DC:



The ad is intended to convey the idea that Humanists abide by a moral code unrelated to a belief in a supernatural creator, and to make agnostics, atheists and other non-Theists feel less alone during the holiday season.

I think the ad is kind of cute, and relates the message without being in-your-face insulting to people of faith.

But you know the fundies aren't real hip on the idea of non-Theists enjoying the holiday season exclusive of a creator god. The usual campaigns surrounding "keeping the Christ in Christmas" and having religiously based decorations such as nativity scenes on government lands are out in full force, and they are Not Pleased with the Humanists entry in holiday advertising.

The reactions have ranged from irked to incensed to downright hostile, culminating in the following quote from Matthew Staver in USA Today:
"It's the ultimate grinch to say there is no God at a time when millions of people around the world celebrate the birth of Christ," said Mathew Staver, the group's chairman and dean of the Liberty University School of Law. "Certainly, they have the right to believe what they want but this is insulting."
So non-Theists have the right to believe what they want, as long as they don't try to include their beliefs in the public discussion? They can enjoy the holiday season in their own way, as long as they do so privately, and don't try to push their religious beliefs onto others by, say, putting up a FSM statue on government property?

The thing that irks me about this is the utter and complete hypocrisy of people like Staver.

Yes, Christmas is a religious holiday for millions of people. I respect and appreciate that, and I'm not one of those people who get all stabby when someone wishes me a "Merry Christmas." I respond in kind, and enjoy Christmas a secular event. For me, the holidays are about family, and food, and being thankful for the relationships that matter to me. Because I'm a non-Theist, I assign my own meaning to the winter solstice holiday, and I don't expect everyone in the world to believe as I do.

And there's the rub. Christmas in the U.S. has become very secular, very materialistic, very inclusive. Staver assumes that because of his personal beliefs about the holiday, that everyone should see Christmas a Christian, religious holiday and behave accordingly. To which I say, Why should I? I don't prevent Christians from enjoying Christmas as a religious event, I don't picket churches or other religious displays, I simply do my own thing and enjoy the season for what it means to me. I don't see why he can't afford me and mine the same courtesy.

There's certainly a historical precedent for my position. If I recall correctly, the Christians themselves "stole" the winter solstice holiday from the pagans and animists in an effort to co-opt their belief systems to Christianity. If I want to reverse the trend, I'm pretty sure the establishment clause allows me that right.

He also seems to think that there are certain rules that should apply to those nasty, nasty Humanists because they're so very offensive. Such as not expressing their beliefs publicly, or not trying to form a Humanist community. But the hypocrisy of an evangelical Christian who supports public religious displays believing such rules should apply to another group but not to his evidently escapes him and his ilk.

So I'm going to continue to enjoy the holidays, and I'll continue to fight against the unearned privilege of evangelical Christians who think that because their religious belief has heretofore been overrepresented in public life that being overrepresented is somehow their inalienable right.

And I'll also sincerely wish my Christian friends and family a very Merry Christmas, and hope their holiday means as much to them as mine does to me.

18 comments:

John the Scientist said...

If you see Christmas as a solely religious holiday - and a Christian one at that - then tear dwon the images of Santa, take down the damn tree, get rid of the lights, and celebrate it in April. Oh yeah, and only give presents of perfume, spices or precious metals.

Now I do know people who won't have a tree and don't let their kids do anything at Halloween, because they think those are non-Christian additions to the tradition of the liturgical calendar. And they're right. I think if you stuck a lump of coal in their ass, you'd get a diamond in a couple of minutes, but at least they're logically consistent.

The people who want all the accoutrements, and then want to make it all about Christian identity make me all stabby.

Janiece Murphy said...

John, I tend to agree.

I guess I just don't understand why these folks are so offended by non-Christians celebrating the holiday in a non-Christian way. Since they stole the winter solstice holiday in the first place, it seems more than a little hypocritical to pitch a fit now.

Of course, these are also the same people who insist, against all logic and policy, that the U.S. is a "Christian Nation."

Now that makes me stabby.

Eric said...

Hypocrisy, Janiece? You mean you haven't been following this week's big SCOTUS case, Summum v. Pleasant Grove?

Allow me to summarize: Summum, a weird, goofy cult, attempted to donate a religious statute to the town of Pleasant Grove, to go alongside a monument to the Ten Commandments that was put up in the park fifty years ago by a religious group trying to take advantage of the release of the movie, The Ten Commandments. Pleasant Grove balked, saying that putting up such a monument would violate the town's First Amendment rights by forcing the town to advocate a religious view it doesn't agree with.

Now, here's the funny part, if you didn't notice it in the previous paragraph (and yes, it's a fair paraphrasing of Pleasant Grove's position, as explained by a spokeperson on NPR earlier this week): Pleasant Grove can only display the Ten Commandments in the first place if it's part of a "secular" display of cultural or civic heritage. That is, they cannot display the Ten Commandments as a message they endorse, because that violates the separation of church and state.

Which means, basically, if they win they lose. And if they lose they lose. And they don't seem to get this. Because the truth is that their Ten Commandments display is a religious statement of faith by the town unless they're being sued by the ACLU or a secular humanist group, at which point the monument magically becomes a secular display of the role the Ten Commandments played in the foundation of blah blah blah.

Were you saying something about hypocrisy? I mean, you're not surprised, are you?

I actually agree with John about the hardliners--they may be tightasses, but at least they're not jackasses, and I can sort of respect that. But the people we're talking about--screw 'em.

Carol Elaine said...

I totally agree with John, though I would hesitate putting Christmas in April for two reasons:

1) There is a strong case to be made that Jesus was most likely born in September or October and...

2) April is my birth month and I will not have it sullied by fundamentalist hypocrites.

The things that make John, Janiece and Eric all stabby? Make me stabby too.

Janiece Murphy said...

Eric, no, I'm not surprised.

But I'm still going to point and laugh (or point and roll my eyes) when they make their hypocrisy so damn obvious.

vince said...

I like what John said. And hey, I find plenty of ads offensive for reasons that have nothing to do with my faith. So what? I just don't read/don't watch them.

The American Humanist Association has just as much right to run that ad as a religious group has a right to run an ad.

Seesh. Get over it. I'll celebrate Christmas as I like (which will be part secular, part Christian), you celebrate as you like. It's called freedom of religion. These people should be grateful they have it. Lots of people in this world don't.

vince said...

And the "get over it" will not be read by the people it's aimed at. But it had to be said.

Janiece Murphy said...

Vince, what bugs me about these folks is that in their minds, "Freedom of Religion" only applies if you choose the correct religion, i.e., theirs.

I have many friends who are people of faith, and not one of them thinks that the establishment clause doesn't apply to those who don't believe as they do.

Nathan said...

The thing that amazes me is that you folks need an excuse to get stabby.

Stabby is my default position.

Nathan said...

::I amuse the shit out of me::

Random Michelle K said...

Eric,

What about "religious" displays that are part of a different message.

IIRC, doesn't the SC have giant murals of law from way back in history, including the ten commandments?

I thought the divider was whether the display was historical or religious? (I phrased that badly. Sue me.)

Chris said...

December 25 is believed to be the "birthday" of the ancient Roman Sun god Mithra or Saturn, and Constantine changed the celebration to Christmas to appease all of the Roman Christians.

Maybe someone should point this out to Fundies and tell them to put the Mithra back in Mithmas, or whatever, and leave Christ out of it.

Eric said...

Michelle: yes, that's what I meant when I shorthanded it to "secular and cultural heritage." Basically, and to keep it simple, displaying the Ten Commandments as an example of ancient law that influenced Anglo-American law is legally okey-dokey, but displaying the Ten Commandments as representing a message endorsed by the State is veddy, veddy naughty.

So what the town of Pleasant Grove is doing is basically screwing themselves. They're presently arguing, basically, that they can discriminate between religious displays because they have a First Amendment right to publish a message--which would be a violation of separation of church and state.

If they were trying to argue that the Ten Commandments display represented an example of ancient law and the display was secular and nondenominational, they'd be on stronger legal ground, but their argument for discriminating against the Summumians would be weaker (n.b. I didn't say they'd lose, just that it's a weaker case for them).

Of course, if the town wins this case, they'll be sued by, oh, just about everyone for violating the Separaration Clause. And when they then make the "secular display" argument, of course they'll have their current argument thrown back in their face and they'll lose. Bye-bye, monument.

Janiece Murphy said...

Merry Mythmas!

Jeri said...

Thanks for sharing that, Janiece.

How do you thing the grand poo-bahs would have reacted if the ads were about, say, taking the Xenu out of Scientology's top holiday? Or a goddess out of a Hindu holiday? A blip. A nonevent. A shrug.

Only when it's their precious and untouchable belief system that's in question is it suddenly a A Big Deal.

Situational ethics?

Wendy said...

First -
Let me be the first to wish you Merry Christmas this year!

There, I said it. That's probably as close to a religious greeting as you'll get out of me, being of the faith but not immersed in the faith for many years now.

I'm afraid though that for many, if not most, the religion went out of Christmas many years ago. Especially if you're in the world of retail, they stole the true meaning of Christmas many years ago.

Here's my twist on this season. You see I was so looking forward to the election ads being over and then on Nov 5th we got...yes, you guessed it, inundated with Christmas ADS!!!

Now, I know of which I speak as I spent nearly 20 years slogging away in the retail world. I am numb to Christmas tree displays going up the day after the Halloween costumes. But the heavy duty ad campaigns held off, for the most part, until the week or so before Thanksgiving, priming the pump for "Black Friday", the day which most retailers finally break even (get into the black) for the year.

Now the stores like K-Mart, that brought back that old staple of frugality - the lay-a-way plan - did need to promote the service.

But the rest of them - well, you want to know the real depth of the economic mess? The retailers, who worship the almighty dollar, are panicing en masse this year, and it will get ugly. The ones that are still in business, that is.

Circuit City is closing ALL of their Georgia stores, and many others by the end of the year. Linens & Things is going out of business and closing all their stores. And K-mart is closing their oldest store here, as well as another round of borderline performers thoughout the country. That's just the ones I can think of this late at night. And a lot of the small ma & pa stores will shut down as well.

In the long run, We, the oh-so broke consumers, may actually benefit from all this in the end. Why, you ask? This past Sunday paper looked like the Thanksgiving paper with all the ad slicks stuffed into it! Why? Because in a desperate effort to bring more people into the stores to spend what little money they have, the stores will lower prices even more. The retail gods will almost get their win in the end.

(steps off soapbox, thanks audience for listening, goes to bed making plans to dust off grandmother's yummy fruitcake recipe and finish some quilty-type gifts for some)

Good night.
WendyB_09

Janiece Murphy said...

You said it, Jeri. Christmas isn't what makes me stabby - it's the hypocrites.

Wendy, you make me laugh.

Steve Buchheit said...

What I think is hilarious is that most of the early religious separatist cults in the US banned celebration of Christmas (Puritans, Zoarites, etc). The Puritans did so because they felt the holiday was too pagan. Strangely enough (to our modern sense) they banned Halloween as to Catholic.

Give me that Zarathustra just like we use-ta. Give me that ol' time religion.